By Richard Vedder
There was a time when I rather liked the AAUP. But as it has become more of a labor union and less of a defender of academic freedom, my views have changed. That is evident in reading today's Inside Higher Ed. Two AAUP officials say that President Obama's proposal to expand Pell Grants and other financial aid are good --but don't go far enough. We need to increase aid to historically minority institutions.
First, I think it is wrong to establish criteria for aid for institutions based on race. Second, while assistance per capita at historically black schools (there are, to my knowledge, no historically Hispanic or Asian schools) is below that at, say, Harvard, that is true for the vast majority of non-race based state universities as well. The solution to give special money to institutions similar to Title I in K-12 schools is not a winner --look at how little good it has done for improving educational outcomes at the secondary level (this idea comes from our friend but big spending advocate King Alexander of the Cal State system). The idea that we should have some sort of affirmative action program for research grants, aside from being racist, would lower the quality of supported research --yes, I think, on average, the faculty of Harvard are better scholars than the faculty of, say, Howard--and so does the NSF, NIH, etc.
Then there is the abysmal graduation rates at all U.S. schools, but notably at the schools that it is proposed to target with additional funds. Money should in any case be given not to schools, but to individuals --the Pell Grant idea is conceptually a sound one, although I am suspect that vast expansion of even that program may make it a middle class entitlement that will raise college costs and add to already significant OVER investment in traditional universities.
Call me cynical, but the AAUP is a union that is saying "don't give all the money to the kids --we have less ability to get our hands on it than when you give it to institutions." So, aside from being racist and asinine, the idea is probably also selfish and self-serving.